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                 Calcutta Rescue Fund

                           Health, Education and Hope


By CRF editor, Mar 25 2020 08:48PM

Dear friends,

Our little charity feels a bit like a international family with supporters spread right round the globe, so here in Kolkata we feel a real sense of solidarity with what you are going through in Europe, North America and Australia. So I want to take this opportunity to send very best wishes to all of you from myself and the CR team and let you know how we are facing up to this crisis.

Starting in February, we began working on a plan for how we could continue to support our beneficiaries, protect staff, and reduce the spread of the disease, if it reached Kolkata. We knew that if it reached us the impact would be very severe on our beneficiaries, given the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in the slums where they live, the fact that many already have serious illnesses. Then there is the poor diet, pollution and inadequate government health services….

We were very fortunate to be able to draw on the advice of three UK NHS doctors, headed by Marcello Scopazzini, an ex-volunteer and now works in the infectious diseases department of a hospital in Edinburgh.

The first priority was to warn people about the virus and explain how they can protect themselves. So for the past month we have run daily health education sessions at the clinics, in the slums where the charity’s mobile clinics work, and in the schools. Posters were put up and a leaflet with targeted advice created to be given to everyone. A hand-washing regime was introduced across the charity, with staff and clients taught how to do this effectively. With the first confirmed case in Kolkata last week, it became clear that we would have to face the virus too. As a result, the government of West Bengal shut all its schools, prompting us to close our two education centres too.

On Saturday we managed to get food parcels to hundreds of our school children to supplement their meagre diets over the next few weeks. These included cooking oil, flour, lentils and soap Then on Sunday the government announced a week-long lock-down in Kolkata from Monday. This involved closing all non-essential businesses and stopping all public transport. Almost all of CRs staff have long commutes on buses and trains - so the team had to rapidly rethink the plan and decide what was now possible. On Monday we put together a skeleton staff of 20 key people who are either going to walk to the clinics or will be ferried in by jeep.

Today they ran the two main clinics, Tala Park and Nimtala today operating under the new procedures drawn up to minimise virus risk for the next few days. Street medicine staff prepared medicines to be taken out to patients in slums around the city on Wednesday - so those who will have almost no access to government facilities will at least get their medicines from CR. We have already done this with most of our TB patients. Patients needing wound-care have been shown how to change their bandages at home and been given everything they need to do this for the next fortnight. We have set up a hotline and will be keeping in frequent contact with the most needy patients by phone.

The Prime Minister announced just announced lock-down till 15 April and the impact of continuing tight restrictions is likely to hit the poorest hardest, as they do not have savings to draw on, and need to work to put food on the table each day. And food prices are also likely to increase. So we will continue to continually review the situation, monitoring the needs of our beneficiaries, and seeing how we can fulfil them.

I am very proud of the hard work and dedication of all my colleagues and want to assure you that we will stay true to the spirit of Dr Jack and do all we can to care for our beneficiaries until this crisis is over.

We are hugely grateful to all our supporters around the world. We stand together in the face of the virus, and we will overcome it. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers over the coming months, you will be in ours.

Stay well and stay safe.

Jaydeep Chakraborty

Chief executive

By CRF editor, Jul 31 2019 08:07AM

“I will support Calcutta Rescue until the day I die,” said Baroness Tessa Blackstone at a retirement tea party she hosted for founder Dr Jack Preger. Resplendent in a suit, tie and shoes, for the first time in decades, Dr Jack told guests assembled at the House of Lords in London on July 4 that many years ago he had taken the baroness to visit his clinic in Nimtala on the banks of the Hooghly River, and the people living behind it in tiny shacks next to the railway line. Seeing the harsh reality of life for the poor in Kolkata, and the outstanding work Calcutta Rescue was doing to help them, made her a life-long supporter of the charity. Dr Jack said: “I don’t think anywhere in the world people are living in worse conditions than along the filthy canals and rubbish dumps of Kolkata.”

Also speaking at the event was Dr Jim Withers the founder and director of the US-based Street Medicine Institute who said that Dr Jack inspired not just his work but that of a generation of doctors and nurses working with the poorest of the poor around the world. He said: "It is impossible to measure the impact of his career in terms of the breadth of the lives saved and those inspired to service. It is equally difficult to measure the depth of the heart and soul that served the most destitute for over 40 years with humility, humor and professional excellence.”

Dr Jack paid tribute to all those who have supported Calcutta Rescue over the years, either by donating money or volunteering, and urged them to continue to back the charity’s work now that he has retired. He said: “Its is a credit to you all how much we have achieved since the beginning. It was done almost entirely with the money you have raised over so many years.”

Noting the importance of a dozen projects run by Calcutta Rescue he paid particular tribute to the charity’s street medicine programme, whose two ambulance-based clinics are now bringing healthcare into the heart of 19 slums: “It is a pride and joy, serving some of the most needy people in Kolkata. The work is unique - in the scale of it, the number of settlements we are seeing and the scope of the work.”

A live web link with the team in Kolkata allowed them to send him their best wishes for his retirement.

Many of the 150 staff have worked at Dr Jack’s side for decades and he praised their extraordinary dedication: “The staff need to be recognised. They get up at dawn, travel in to work in terrible conditions on public transport, work all day then struggle to get home at night.”

By CRF editor, May 23 2019 05:19AM

Climbing Everest is nothing compared to the metaphorical mountain that Subhajit Sana, has had to climb to run one of Calcutta Rescue’s two schools.

Subho (which means 'good') was born 30 years ago in a 10ftx10ft hut in a slum in Kolkata with no toilet.

Both his parents are illiterate and his father is an alcoholic who spent much of what little money they had on booze and cards.

He had no parental support and guidance but Subho was bright and determined, and school was his salvation.

There he found a series of teachers who recognised his potential.

He studied very hard and they gave him extra support at breaks and after school.

As a result he won a place at college where he gained a BSC majoring in physics, chemistry and maths.

He had paid his own way through university by doing three jobs - working in a factory two days a week, acting as a courier and making packages out of newspaper at home that he could sell.

And afterwards he jumped at the chance of a low paid job as a teacher at Calcutta Rescue.

Why? Because: “I love teaching and I don’t want other children to suffer like me.”

A decade on and Subho has risen to be headteacher of Tala Park School, responsible for 9 teachers and 300 students.

He is an inspirational role model for them. When it was decided a few months ago to extend the school hours into the evening to provide a place for youngsters to do their homework and receive support with it Subho volunteered to do this himself - adding an extra two and a half hours to his working day.

“Kids don’t get guidance at home. Now we provide that.” he said smiling.

On the shelf in his small, dark office is a laminated certificate which says that CR’s schools were named the most caring in West Bengal at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence in 2018.

That is quite a thing to try to live-up-to, or even justify, but Subho is a clear demonstration of why that award is fully justified.

By CRF editor, Apr 14 2019 10:33AM

Thousands of people in Malda district, near the border with Bangladesh, will be protected from a slow, painful death from arsenic poisoning thanks to the support of charity Every Well Water Foundation (EWWF). The UK-based charity is providing funding to run filters on wells in 12 villages for the next three years.

Nine districts in West Bengal have groundwater containing arsenic above the maximum permissible level determined by the World Health Organisation. Chronic arsenic poisoning affects millions of people in the region. Symptoms include weakness, appetite and weight loss, anaemia, and damage to the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Over time many will go on to develop cancer of the skin, lungs, liver and bladder.

By CRF editor, Jan 12 2019 09:08PM

Forty years after he first opened his medical bag and started treating the poorest of the poor on the pavements of Kolkata, Calcutta Rescue founder Dr Jack Preger MBE has decided to retire at the age of 88.

In that time Dr Jack and Calcutta Rescue have helped more than 500,000 people. The British doctor is widely regarded as the grandfather of street medicine, and helped pioneer many of the practices now used to treat the poor around the globe, including work on tuberculosis, leprosy and AIDS.

Despite his age and failing eyesight, Dr Jack has continued to play an important role in guiding Calcutta Rescue. He frequently visited the clinics, where he used his wisdom and huge experience to ensure patients received the best possible care.

Dr Jack said he had great confidence in the charity’s Chief Executive, Jaydeep Chakraborty, and the management team, and appealed for people to continue to support the charity after his departure.

Dr Jack added: “I’d like to say thank you to all of the staff for making Calcutta Rescue what it is. Many have spent most of their working lives with us. I hope that tradition of kindness and respect for all those who are in our care, whether it be the children we educate, our staff or our patients, is there for as long as this organisation continues. I very much hope it will continue for many more years to come.”

Mr Chakraborty said: “Dr Jack has selflessly and quietly gone about his work of serving some of the poorest citizens in the world. Those of us who work with him have seen the manner in which he has done it and the things he has given up – he leads an almost monastic existence.

“He is one in 10 million. We are never going to have another Dr Jack. But we have Calcutta Rescue, the organisation he founded. What he has created for the people of Kolkata and West Bengal is immense, and those people still need Calcutta Rescue’s help.”

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